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GNP Presidential Candidates Emerging

Posted June. 17, 2006 03:09,   


Park Geun-hye, Grand National Party (GNP) chairperson, is resigning from her leadership post on June 16. Also finishing up their terms of office at the end of this month are Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak and Gyeonggi Province Governor Sohn Hak-kyu.

All three promising candidates for presidency in the leading opposition GNP are about to leave their titles behind and make a fresh start for the next presidential election. The only exception to this is the fact that Park is still a member of the National Assembly.

All of them say they plan to lay the solid foundation for their full-fledged election campaigns till the year’s end.

According to close associates of Park, who led her party to victory in the May 31 local elections, she will take some time off to regain her strength, read books on handling state affairs, and plan her next steps. They say she will try to refrain from giving lectures or going overseas for some time because the cut on her face has yet to completely heal.

One associate stated, “There are no plans as to who will be assisting Park after her resignation. There hasn’t been a discussion of how to manage the campaign for the presidential election.”

Still, Park might agree to the request from the GNP and appear in public to show her support in the July 26 by-elections. Another potential item on her future schedule is her visit to China in September to give a special lecture on Korea’s successful “Saemaeul Movement.” But before she decides whether to travel to China, she has to recover from her wound.

Meanwhile, Lee Myung-bak, outgoing Seoul mayor, will open his office in Jongno-gu, Seoul, though he denies that the office is the “headquarters for his presidential election campaign.” In early July, he will visit a farming village in South Jeolla Province to do volunteer work for a day or two with undergraduate students. The activity has been planned in order to personally listen to the difficulties facing Korea’s farmers in the face of conclusion of Korea-US free trade agreement talks.

Mayor Lee is also known to be considering studying through the end of this year and traveling to Australia and Germany.

Gyeonggi Province Governor Sohn is also drawing up his schedule for his post-gubernatorial career. Unlike other candidates in his party, he plans to travel all over the country for two to three months because he thinks political power rests with the citizens, not the National Assembly in Yeouido. He withdrew his plan to open an office in Yeouido.

Sohn says he will make sincere attempts to communicate with the people by posting what he hears and feels over the course of his travel on his website.

Yong-Gwan Jung yongari@donga.com